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Disturbing Images Surface Of Juvenile Prisoners Being Abused In Australia

The prime minister of Australia said he is "shocked and appalled" after seeing footage of children being hooded, shackled, stripped and held on the floor by prison guards at a youth detention facility in the Northern Territory.

The footage aired Monday evening on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's news program, Four Corners. It compared the images to those of prisoner abuse and torture at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison in 2004.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a royal commission would look into the entire corrections and child protection system.

According to ABC, the footage was shot at the Northern Territory's Don Dale prison in 2014 and 2015. On Tuesday, the regional official in charge of youth detention for the region was fired, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, and his duties were taken over by the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, Adam Giles.

Giles told ABChe was upset by the footage, and that: "One of the things I find most abhorrent is to see a child being struck or a child being hit. And the images of a corrections officer hitting a child... I thought was quite horrific."

However, he defended the use of hoods in some circumstances. "Look, nobody wants to put a hood on a child," Giles told ABC. "But where we have a prison officer who is trying to support a child in youth in detention, and they are continuing to be spat on, I have to also provide a work environment conducive to healthy work practice for those prison officers."

The video aired by ABC includes footage of a 17-year-old boy bound to a restraint chair with his head covered by a hood, allegedly for two hours. A regional lawpassed in May says restraining chairs are explicitly approved for use in juvenile detention facilities in the Northern Territory.

Leaders in the Australian aboriginal community also spoke out against the mistreatment of prisoners. Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory are incarcerated at rates far higher than the general population, the Guardian reports:

"Indigenous youths make up 96 percent of the young prison population in the Northern Territory and indigenous people are overwhelmingly represented in the [territory] prison system across the board. Indigenous people make up 30 percent of the overall population of the [territory]."

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Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.